The street value of rhinoceros horns has soared to about $65,000 a kilogramme, making it more expensive than gold. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
A record number of African rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa this year, driven by the use of their horns in Chinese medicine and a spreading belief in south-east Asia – unfounded in science – that they may cure cancer.
The street value of rhinoceros horns has soared to about $65,000 a kilogramme, making it more expensive than gold.
Around 15 animals a year were lost a decade ago, showing the impact of rising demand from Asia.Rhino poaching in South Africa Photograph: Graphic
The number of rhinoceros dying unnatural deaths in South Africa, either through illegal poaching or legal hunts, has now reached a level likely to lead to population decline, according to a study by Richard Emslie, an expert in the field.
About half of poaching takes place in Kruger national park, the country's flagship park, where soldiers and surveillance aircraft have been deployed in recent months to slow the carnage.
The park has been the focal point of an arms race as gangs of poachers sponsored by international crime syndicates have used high-powered weaponry, night vision goggles and helicopters to hunt the animals, investigators said.